Observability, a term or should I say a buzzword? Never before was observability such a hot topic as of the end of 2021 until now. Is it new or is it old ideas parading as new ones? I think it is both.
For many years, companies have outsourced their IT systems which ended up with complex IT architectures and even more complex support models. The question of who is responsible for not only the IT solution but also the business adaption is not easy to answer. The answer cannot be found in one central system but is scattered around multiple applications and even vendors.
The solution is to observe your IT landscape or as I would say, become in control again. As a company, you should take ownership and make sure your IT landscape and observability (monitoring) are in line with your business goals. Collect as much data as possible, store it in a central place, observe the data and act on it.
Data is key for observability.
Developers have a direct influence on an effective observability platform.
The faster a bug is identified, the faster a fix can be deployed.
The next step within observability is security!
Observability – what?
First of all, let’s make sure we have the definition of Observability clear. We as Devoteam see observability (and the availability & security) as a way of collecting, processing, and storing different types of observability data centrally.
For observability, we make use of the following sources:
- Application traces (APM)
Oh, and in case you think this only applies to on-premise applications, think again! Nowadays, Cloud is more important than ever and companies are having more and more of a hybrid application landscape. An IT landscape that exists of a mix of on-premise or cloud applications. Even more in such a case, observability is key for your company.
Observability – why?
Prioritizing bug detection over bug resolution
In most companies, what is more important during a production issue (priority 1 situation)? The time to find the bug or the time that is needed to solve the bug?
Many will answer by saying “the time to solve the bug”. I would say “the time to find the bug”! Why? If it takes 2 minutes to solve the bug but it will take you 4 hours to find the bug, you are already starting 4 hours later with the solution. If you could find the bug within 10 minutes instead of 4 hours you save almost 95% of your time looking for the problem.
With observability, you have the opportunity to see relationships between applications, microservices, and even infrastructure. This allows you to enable your DevOps teams, IT managers, and even business managers to see the dependency and monitor the reliability of your IT landscape.
The multifaceted role of observability
Also, the next misunderstanding – observability is NOT only to monitor your production environment. Once observability is set up correctly, it can, no must, support your teams already in their development phase to see what the behavior is of their application onto the observability capabilities.
As a company, but more as a development team, you should understand the direct impact of bad code on your observability solution. The way a developer writes code has a direct impact on the success rate of your observability solution. Therefore, operators and developers need to collaboratively implement observability into the application stack. This collaboration starts not when an application goes into production, but should start during development. Observability to support (DevOps) teams, starts with Acceptance. Without this step, you end up with a great solution that will not be adopted by your people.
Cultivating a continuous observability practice
When you have a well-functioning observability culture in your company, then your teams are collaborating to develop applications that are more robust and free from bugs. You’re never fully done building around observability, just like how development is also a never-ending process.
Observability without a business process around is just having a tool with data that sits and acts on its own. After you finish the first steps in observability, your process forces you to look at the data, analyze the data and look for optimization of the data. The findings are reported and implemented and then you start over. Inspect, observe and act. You are never truly finished building observability around your code! It needs to be a continuous process.
The future of observability
Observability at the center of organizational processes
As changes are made to the application stack, interface code or even pipelines, these are the main reasons for performance degradation and downtime. We see observability becoming more and more adopted by companies as it becomes more crucial for them to get back into control and get a grip on what happens in their production environment.
Devoteam expects that observability will become more mainstream and will position itself in the center of organizational processes. Therefore, it will become more important to make effective use of the collected data. That means that your observability tool will be the linking pin between data, rules & alerts, workflow, and case management.
Devoteam has a strong partnership with Elastic. The Elastic Observability platform allows you to collect and ingest data, process and analyze and connect to your ServiceNow or Jira instances for workflow or case management. All from one centralized observability platform.
From observability to security
Another observation as the next step from observability is security. Not all companies will have a SOC (Security Operations Centre) or a security officer available. Data is the heart of a company application and data is also the heart of modern observability solutions. This also applies to security. For companies that started with observability, collecting data will be relatively easy to step up into security.
Companies doing observability are used to ingesting data (direct or via agents) and have a good understanding of their applications landscape, which makes it relatively easy to install security agents. A tool itself for security will not be the solution. It helps if you have an observability tool like Elastic, which can ease the need from growing from observability to security. Besides the tooling, knowledge of implementing and building an efficient process of maintaining the built observability solution is still needed to support this step in the world of security.
The key to getting in control
Devoteam is happy that companies work hard on using observability to get back in control. With a good implemented observability platform and the correct organizational processes to support, you will see the benefits of observability.
Observability is not only a buzzword anymore, it is key for companies to survive, and to meet the criteria of the service that they want to deliver to their customers. Besides this, it enables them to become proactive instead of reactive. Once started, you notice you will never be finished, which is not bad at all. There is always room for improvement, and room to add more data to get even more visibility. All in favor of that one goal, find the bug as soon as possible to be able to work on a proper solution.
Once observability is in place, it is relatively easy to step up to security. As security and observability share some of the same information (like logs, traces, and metrics) it is THE next step to improve your observability platform. Observability will give you 24/7 insights into your application, for example by giving insights into the possible vulnerabilities of an application. Therefore it plays a big role between development and operation teams. This insight will help you to act on that in a preventive way before it becomes an issue.